Thursday, 2 October 2014

Risotto with Sausage, Leek, Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

This was an all round Use Stuff Up meal! 2 sausages in the freezer, a bit of asparagus, half a leek and a handful of grape tomatoes. and an open container of chicken stock. I find risotto brings different flavours and textures together so well, and it's creaminess helps to balance everything.

The sausages I was using were from a local grocery store. They were pork sausage, with roasted leeks and caramelized onions, full of sweetness and flavour. This made a good base for the rest of the dish.

Start by roasting the grape tomatoes in a 400F oven.

Put the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast until they are soft, starting to split or wrinkle and just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.

Keep the dish for the asparagus, and leave the oven on.

Next, prepare the other vegetables.

Finely slice the leek, dice 2 stalks of celery and take the tough ends off the asparagus.

Put the chicken stock into a small pot and heat it up. I had about 3 cups of stock.

Weigh out 11oz of arborio rice.

Split the sausage casing lengthwise and remove the meat.

Cook the celery and leek in a heavy bottomed pan, using about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until they are beginning to soften.

Add the sausage, using a wooden spoon to break it up as it cooks.

When the sausage is almost cooked through, add all the rice at once. Stir it around so that it is coated with the oil.

Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, stir it in and turn the heat down to a low heat, so it is at a gentle bubble (not boil).

Continue to add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Each addition should go into the pan when the previous amount is almost completely absorbed by the rice.

When the rice still has a bit of firmness to it, place the asparagus into the tomato baking dish, tossing it in the oil and tomato juices that remain.

Place it into the oven and bake until it is tender.

When the rice is fully cooked, add the roasted tomatoes in to reheat them.

Now stir in a handful of grated Parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning.

                    Serve the risotto with the roasted asparagus and extra grated Parmesan.

  • If you run out of stock before the rice is fully cooked, use water. At that point there is a lot of flavour in the risotto already, so it will add the moisture needed without compromising the taste.
  • Be careful not to have the heat too high. You want the rice to absorb the liquid. If the heat is too high, the liquid will evaporate before it gets absorbed, resulting in undercooked rice and/or the use of a lot more liquid than called for.
  • The roasted grape tomatoes added sweet juicy bursts of flavour, and the roasted asparagus added a crunch.
  • Top the risotto with toasted nuts, or mix breadcrumbs with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil and toast those to add a crunch.
  • Use onions or shallots instead of leeks.
  • Using a creamier cheese to finish the dish off works nicely...goat cheese, blue cheese or brie.
  • Try different vegetables...roasted red pepper, diced beets, grated carrot or zucchini, peas or beans, sundried tomatoes, artichokes or olives, roasted garlic or mushrooms.
  • Mix a dollop of  Basil Pesto into the risotto just before serving.
  • Put a handful of shredded fresh spinach on top, and allow the heat to wilt it before mixing it in at the table.
  • Omit the sausage, and top each portion of risotto with grilled scallops, prawns or fish.
  • Dice up leftover meat and add that into the risotto near the end of the cooking time. Leftovers taken up a notch!
  • Use chopped fresh herbs, minced garlic, lemon zest or spices to add even more flavour. The sausages had a lot of flavour and that came through in the finished risotto.
  • Cook the rice the same way, using absorption, but instead of stock, use milk or whipping cream (or a combination). Sweeten to taste, add some cinnamon and you have a creamy rice pudding.
  • The risotto can be made a day or two ahead, and reheated by adding a bit more liquid and cooking over a low heat.

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